Law enforcement agencies are warning computer users to be on the lookout for ransomware attacks. Most recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning about a rise in complaints.
Ransomware is a type of malware that works by hijacking your computer. Lockscreen ransomware locks your screen and displays a message that says you’ve violated federal law by accessing sites associated with terrorism, child pornography or other criminal activities. Encryption ransomware encrypts your files and requires a password to access them.
These messages are not legitimate. This is not how law enforcement reacts to suspected Internet illegal activity. Most ransomware says you need to pay a fine for your computer to work again and gives you instructions on how to pay with a money card service. Paying the “fine” will not return your computer to a usable condition.
The best way to defend against ransomware is to keep your security and virus protection software up-to-date and only open attachments from trusted sources.
If your Windows computer is hijacked by ransomware, Microsoft suggests two ways to remove the infection. The first way is to restart your computer in safe mode and run the Microsoft Security Scanner. After completing the scan, restart your computer.
If that doesn’t work, you’ll need access to another non-infected computer that has access to the Internet. You can download a copy of Windows Defender Offline here and follow the instructions on how to create a bootable device. Then boot your infected computer from that device.
It’s a complicated process, so the best thing to do is make sure you don’t get infected in the first place. Make sure you install security software and keep your definitions up-to-date.